Preview: The Clarice’s new Season Brings High-tech Puppetry, ‘The Nutcracker’ and More

The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center hosts and produces hundreds of performances each year. From class productions to extracurricular activities, The Clarice offers a wide range of productions to appeal to audiences from all walks of life.

Here are some of the upcoming highlights of the 2015-2016 season at The Clarice.

Music in the Mind: ‘Ceilidh’

The Music in the Mind series is a yearlong program put together by staff members.

The first of three concerts in the series is “Ceilidh,” pronounced “KAI-lee.”

A ceilidh is a social gathering with Gaelic folk music and dancing, according to Robert Gibson, the director of the School of Music.

“The selection of pieces in this particular concert is oriented toward the spirit of a kind of Gaelic folk gathering,” Gibson said. “It’s music that’s very much connected to dance and social gathering, but still a concert setting. It’s somewhat unique – different to your standard classical music chamber concert.”

The four performers in this concert are all faculty members. The newly appointed cello professor Eric Kutz, will also perform, Gibson said.

The other performers are Carmen Balthrop, a soprano singer; Kathleen Trahan, a flutist; James Stern a violinist; and Michael Langlois a pianist.

General admission for the concert is $25, and student tickets are $10.

The Music in the Mind series premiered in 2008, Gibson said, and all proceeds support undergraduate scholarships for the School of Music.

“Ceilidh” takes place Sunday, Nov. 8 at 3 p.m. in the Gildenhorn Recital Hall.

UMSO and Chamber Singers: ‘The Little Match Girl’ and ‘The Nutcracker’

The University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra and the University of Maryland Chamber Singers join together to perform “The Little Match Girl” and “The Nutcracker.”

To enhance the performance, video designer Tim McLoraine combines both still and moving imagery, which will be projected behind the ensembles, Gibson said.

“The moving images and still images are all controlled by computer, and then they’re projected on a screen behind the orchestra,” Gibson said. “Each is specially designed, but it’s a combination of computer graphics and projections.”

McLoraine is not a faculty member, Gibson said, but a visual designer in the area who has collaborated with The Clarice before. The most recent collaboration was Benjamin Britten’s “Les Illuminations.”

“When we did ‘Les’ it was actually two screens and the solo singer was standing between them,” Gibson said. “It had a very dimensional quality.”

This performance is on Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. in the Dekelboum Concert Hall.

Maryland Opera Studio: ‘Regina’

The Maryland Opera Studio is a two-year masters program within the School of Music. The 18 students in the program perform a full production in the spring, Gibson said.

This spring, the production is “Regina.”

The students design the sets, lighting and costumes, and make up the pit just like a professional performance, Gibson said.

“Students are the singers on the stage, but the opera itself also involves students from theatre, dance and performance studies who do the lighting, set and costume design,” Gibson said.”The orchestra, for instance, that is performing in the pit for the opera consists of UMD grad and undergrad students in the Maryland Symphony Orchestra.”

For students involved in the Maryland Opera Studio, the performance is one of the major requirements for the degree, Gibson said. The production requires a two-semester class.

“Even though these productions are at a very high professional level, these are all students,” Gibson said. “That’s one of the unique aspects of our opera: even the designs are done by students… The level of its is very high quality, but again, it’s all students that are on stage and behind the stage.”

The opera will be performed April 8 to 16 in Kay Theatre.

International Piano Archives at Maryland 50th Anniversary

The Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library is home to one of the largest collections of “piano books, scores, programs and related materials.”

For the 50th anniversary, the staff suggested a series of piano recitals to celebrate the collection.

“The idea of this is we want to celebrate the history of the International Piano Archives as well as look forward to the next 50 years,” said Stephen Henry, the head of the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library. “We like to say – and I think we’re correct about this – it’s the largest collection of piano-related materials in the world.”

Marc-André Hamelin will give the first performance on October 4. He’s been involved with the organization of the collection and uses it often, Henry said.

“He stops in when he’s in town and pulls something from the collection,” Henry said.

Hamelin plays more traditional piano, according to Henry, and is hailed as a “pianist’s pianist.” Hamelin is known to perform very technical things other people wouldn’t touch, Henry said. He also does his own transcripts for piano, meaning he takes things written for other instruments and transcribes the music to play on the piano.

Margaret Leng Tan will give the final performance of the four-part series.

“We wanted to bring her in because she’s a really path-breaking musician,” Henry said. “She’s really interested in expanding the boundaries of what a piano can do as an instrument.”

Tan incorporates “high-end toy pianos – not the Fisher Price toy pianos -” in her performances, Henry said. She has also been known to play tea kettles, bicycle bells and all sorts of different things.

“She’s very theatrical,” Henry said. “[She gives] an immersive, theatrical experience.”

Huang Yi & KUKA

A Taiwanese choreographer introduced a new aspect to dance: Huang Yi performs with his industrial robot, KUKA.

“What’s so fascinating about this performance is Huang Yi’s artistry,” said Martin Wollesen, the executive director of the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.

In addition to two performances on the Sept. 25 and 26, Yi will give a lecture on Sept. 23 discussing whether or not humans are becoming more machine-like or machines are becoming more life-like.

“The performance shifts your perception as to how far apart man and machine are today,” Wollesen said. “Audiences see the inextricable link we have with machines that didn’t exist 10, 15 years ago. It’s kind of like high-tech puppetry.”

On Sept. 24, Yi will partake in an ArtistTalk, Wollesen said. The talk will “look at Huang’s creative process by examining short segments of his larger choreographed work with KUKA.”  Professor Satyandra K. Gupta, Director of the Maryland Robotics Center in UMD’s Institute for Systems Research, will interview Yi, Wollesen said.

“Our Creative Dialogues present unique opportunities for illustrating and animating the creative process,” Wollesen said. “They provide context for the issues addressed through artistic work by encouraging exchange of ideas and active participation between artists and audiences.”

Featured Photo Credit: Huang Yi & KUKA. (by Jacob Blickenstaff)

headshotMaya Pottiger is a junior journalism major and can be reached at

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